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Crawling around on the floor with world leaders
by Linda Lane
2009-10-10 09:32:21
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general_400When I was 12 or 13 years old I met General Westmoreland, on Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska to plan for a school. At his invitation I met with him privately to discuss planning in North Mountain View, Orah Dee Clark Jr. High, so the jets landing at Elmendorf did not cross over or directly land over the planned combination elementary / junior high school because it was loud, disturbing and potentially hazardous.

My girlfriends and I did not want the junior high to lose it's cross county ski and running track, nor did we want the elementary and junior high to be combined due to drug problems and the cost of an overpass. The cost of the necessary overpass was not included in the city's planning, which drove the associated cost way up. There was also the potential problem of older kids hazing younger kids.

My mom made an appointment for me, and drove me to his office building; I was unusually wearing a dress with my hair combed. She waited in the waiting room. At first General Westmoreland did the "How may I help you pretty little lady" thing, but when he heard the problem description that all changed. We were looking for 5-10 other physical sites but having trouble finding any good ones.

General Westmoreland ordered a large map of Anchorage which included Elmendorf from his aides. Several rolls appeared immediatedly and he selected one.

He took off his suitjacket. We sat on the floor with a very large map of Anchorage spread out in his military office, much to his aide's surprise. They stood in the door way and whispered and fretted. I think there are protocols for guarding a general but what is the protocol regarding a child? They treated him like gold. Finally he shussed them off! (*dismissed*)

We crawled all over the floor together looking at the landing patterns and the potential sites, but really he knew I was asking him for land from the base (and even worse yet to change the landing fields.)

General Westmoreland told me that the military could not be involved with civilian matters, but privately I believe he communicated his advice. I included our meeting in the materials later presented at the Anchorage City Council meeting.

Since no practical solution was found the school was delayed in being built for 40 years(!). Anchorage did finally built it this last year. The school as it existed then was called Orah Dee Clark Junior High where I attended.


My mom told me Westmoreland became a famous general in Vietnam. I recall how kind and gentle he was to me, though firm, and strong -- handsome -- he had a big aura. I can find no public records of his being in Anchorage, but I know he was.

Unfortunately due to the presentation we made to the Anchorage City Council the paid city planner was fired for incompetence. The Council reasoned that if three 13 year old girls could do this level of planning they could find a more qualified employee. My buddies, Nancy Byrd, Mary Liston, and I have high IQs so perhaps that was an unfair comparison to him. Everybody should have work, cause everyone needs it.

An article and our photos were published in the Anchorage Times about the planning meeting. I'll see if I can find my old copy and digitize it.

Here's some more information about the General:


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